Under the Dome

State staff testify at NC education quality hearing

State Department of Public Instruction employees testified Wednesday about teacher and principal evaluations, student health and teacher training at a hearing on state education quality.

The hearing in the long-running Leandro case centers on a plan the state submitted under an order from Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, who is overseeing education improvement efforts. The Supreme Court has ruled that state is required to provide children the opportunity at a sound basic education.

The State Board of Education said it is meeting its constitutional mandate, and a plan it has submitted is largely a description of practices already in place.

Lawyers for the plaintiff school boards maintain that the state board’s report is deficient. They want Manning to order the board work with the legislature and executive branch agencies to come up with a detailed action plan toward meeting the constitutional requirement.

Testifying for the state were Lynne Johnson, director of educator effectiveness at the state Department of Public Instruction; Ellen Essick, head of the Health Schools section; and Thomas Tomberlin, director of district human resources. They mostly provided detailed descriptions of a range of services available to students, teachers and principals.

Part of the state board’s plan describes “program expansion” items, such as giving districts control over their calendars, a scholarship/loan forgiveness program to encourage enrollment in teacher education programs, and other changes so that more at-risk students “are able to access and receive a sound basic education.”

That section of the document is “a starting point of initial ideas,” said Glenn Kleiman, executive director of the Friday Institute at N.C. State University. He testified for the local school boards.

“It doesn’t have the kinds of details you’d have in a full plan, but it’s a step toward a full plan,” he said.

The hearing continues Thursday.